TCPA Cases Stayed Pending SCOTUS Spokeo Ruling


By: Matt Foree

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) litigants are anxiously awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States in Robins v. Spokeo, Inc., 742 F.3d 409 (9th Cir. 2014) cert. granted, 135 S.Ct. 1892 (2015) (“Spokeo”).  In Spokeo, the Supreme Court is addressing the issue of “[w]hether Congress may confer Article III standing upon a plaintiff who suffers no concrete harm, and who therefore could not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court, by authorizing a private right of action based on a bare violation of a federal statute.”

In Spokeo, the plaintiff raised a claim under the Fair Credit Report Act (“FCRA”) alleging, through a bare statutory violation, that he was damaged when Spokeo published false information about him.  Although Spokeo concerns a claim under the FCRA, the outcome of the case could affect TCPA litigation.  If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the defendant in Spokeo, TCPA plaintiffs alleging statutory violations without a concrete injury also may lack standing such that their cases would be subject to dismissal.  Because of the potentially significant impact on TCPA cases, numerous courts across the country have granted stays pending the Spokeo decision.

On November 2, 2015, the Court heard oral argument in Spokeo, which was sharply divided.  The death of Justice Scalia appears to have complicated the outcome, as it is understood that Scalia favored defendant’s position.  As such, many believe that a split 4-4 decision is likely.  Such a decision would effectively uphold the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, which held that a bare statutory violation was sufficient to confer Article III standing.

The Supreme Court will not be releasing additional opinions until, at the earliest, May 16th, and the Court recesses at the end of June. It remains possible that Spokeo will be reheard next term.